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Hoggett, P. (1986). Aspects of longing. Free Associations, 1(4):120-138.

(1986). Free Associations, 1(4):120-138

Aspects of longing

Paul Hoggett

The following essay was occasioned by reading Richard Lichtman's The Production of Desire — a book with a promising title, I thought as I opened the first few pages. Some months later, having completed this difficult but generally rewarding book, I nevertheless couldn't help feeling a bit cheated: the book didn't seem to be about desire at all — or not as I understood the term. The writing that follows is, therefore, not so much a review of Lichtman, though I will refer specifically to his book on occasions, as an attempt to compensate myself for feeling that my wish to understand desire had not been adequately met.

It could be that my mind is becoming too tidy but I've become irritated by a proliferation of terms, used in an increasingly arbitrary fashion, to describe aspects of human longing. In particular, the term ‘desire’ seems to be popping up everywhere at the moment. In addition to Lichtman's book, we hear of ‘feminine desire’ (Coward), ‘desire machines’ (Deleuze and Guattari), ‘the age of desire’ (Kovel) …; the list seems endless. Yet when one scrutinizes such texts closely it becomes clear that the greater the voguishness of this term, the sloppier its usage. Indeed, this confusion is not something which applies just to works of cultural criticism, for there are real ambiguities within the theoretical paradigms from which much of this criticism flows.

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